In an effort to boost its viewership, ESPN announced it will shift ESPN2’s weekday morning talker “First Take,” with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman and host Molly Qerim, to the ESPN flagship network beginning Monday, Jan. 3.
The two hours of “SportsCenter” currently airing on ESPN from 10 a.m. – noon will move to ESPN2, also on January 3. “SportsCenter Face to Face,” an interview-based program hosted by Hannah Storm, will air from 10 – 11 a.m.
The two-hour “SportsCenter Coast to Coast,” hosted by David Lloyd in Bristol and Cari Champion in Los Angeles, will air from 11 a.m. – noon on ESPN2. The second hour of “SportsCenter Coast to Coast” will remain on ESPN, with the exception of January 3 – 6 when the final week of “His & Hers,” hosted by Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, will air on ESPN from noon – 1 p.m. Hill and Smith will become co-anchors of the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” on ESPN beginning February 6, 2017.
“First Take and SportsCenter are two strong, complementary franchises airing on two strong, complementary platforms,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president, programming and scheduling. “We have always demonstrated a willingness to take a fresh approach with our network schedules and this move is the latest example of that thinking.”
“First Take” and “SportsCenter” will both continue to be streamed live on WatchESPN and the ESPN app. First Take will continue to be reaired on ESPN2 each day.
The ESPN weekday morning lineup as of January 3:
6 am – SportsCenter (reair)
7 am – SportsCenter:AM (live)
8 am – SportsCenter:AM (live)
9 am – SportsCenter:AM (live)
10 am – First Take (live)
Noon – SportsCenter Coast to Coast (live except January 3-6 when His & Hers airs on ESPN)
The ESPN2 weekday morning lineup as of January 3:
6 am – Mike & Mike
10 am – SportsCenter Face to Face (live)
11 am – SportsCenter Coast to Coast (live)
“First Take” has been ESPN2’s most-watched regularly-scheduled program since 2011 when it altered its show title from their original “Cold Pizza” moniker. Its rise in audience in 2012 was a direct result of a greater emphasis on the “embrace debate” model that discussed each current event in sports at further length. The combination of Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith as highly opinionated commentators garnered much attention for “First Take.”
Back in July, Max Kellerman replaced Bayless who had departed the show and its network earlier this year for Fox Sports.
Bayless is currently part of the identical “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” program (developed and produced by Jamie Horowitz, also formerly of “First Take”) with co-host Shannon Sharpe that debuted on FS1 (Fox Sports 1) back in September in direct competition to “First Take.”
While it remains the overall leader over the competing “Undisputed” from FS1, the audience for “First Take” since Labor Day has declined by one-third from year-ago levels and on Tuesday, Nov. 8 (Election Day), it drew just 206,000 viewers according to Nielsen — its lowest viewership to-date within the past two months. Since September, ESPN has been featuring short “First Take” segments during the halftime portion of “Monday Night Football.”
Meanwhile, FS1 has touted the recent ratings for “Undisputed” and has proclaimed it in commercials as “America’a Fastest Growing Sports Talk Show.”